Tony Abbott accused of buying Facebook likes in India: should your business do the same?

Tony Abbott appears to have been sprung buying Facebook likes in India.

A surge in “likes” on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page driven by new fans living in India prompted social media users to question Abbott’s newfound popularity.

Comedians The Bondi Hipsters took a break from dressing like Kim Kardashian to ask whether the Prime Minister had bought likes from overseas.

The Bondi Hipsters posted a screenshot of Abbott’s official Facebook page showing it was most popular among Gen Ys in New Delhi.

“Hey Tony brah… Have you been buying Facebook likes?…Either that or you’re really popular with 18-34 year olds from New Delhi,” the post said.

Bondi Hipsters’ Facebook post questioning Abbott’s popularity has been liked 15,000 times since then.

But a spokesperson for the Prime Minister defended his social media surge to SmartCompany and said no “likes” or advertising had been purchased for the Facebook page.

“It is no secret that the Prime Minister hosted a number of world leaders in recent times, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the spokesperson said.

“These visits attracted large international audiences to the Prime Minister’s social media channels, thus generating a spike in organic engagement with the page.”

Last week Modi posted a selfie with Abbott on his Facebook page which garnered over 700,000 likes.

Modi is extremely popular on social media with over 25 million Facebook fans and 8 million Twitter followers.

In comparison, Abbott lags behind with just under 400,000 Facebook fans and 300,000 Twitter followers.

Social media expert Dionne Lew told SmartCompany it is very difficult to determine whether followers are real or bought and dangerous to make assumptions in this area.

But Lew is clear that businesses should not buy social media followers.

“It’s definitely not something that business owners should be doing because it’s in a sense misleading,” she says.

“My own view is that all of the followers that you gain should be gained as a result of people actively choosing to follow and engage with you.”

Lew says buying likes and followers means social media then becomes “a numbers game”.

“You could only have 100 followers but if it is core to what you stand for and your business, those 100 followers are more influential and important than having 17,000 who don’t know what you are and what you do.”

Lew also says social media has moved away from looking at numbers as a sign of social importance.

“If you look at Klout and Kred they look much more at engagement: how do you engage and who do you engage with,” she says.  

“Whilst those scores are flawed the measures themselves are really focused on the quality of engagement rather than a simple numbers game.”

Kylie Bartlett, social web branding strategist, says buying followers and likes is “really, really hard to prove”.

She says’s Abbott’s sudden popularity is “strange” but could be a result of the recent G20.

“My opinion is that it is definitely a no no to buy likes,” she says. If they are not your target market I question as to why you would want to do it.”

READ MORE: Why Australian companies could reap the rewards of India’s roaring economy

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